by Hannah Garcia, Reporter
Spring Break is commonly viewed as a time for students and professors to enjoy a well-deserved break from hard work. However, for some students, it is a time to learn and experience life beyond what is learned and taught in classrooms. Lone Star College’s Alternative Spring Break program provides students the opportunity to learn about a variety of social issues that include immigration, inequality, homelessness and poverty by engaging themselves directly with the work of organizations that address these challenges by working on service-oriented projects with community based organizations over Spring Break.
This program is sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement. The organization aspires to encourage the students, faculty and staff of Lone Star College to become citizens that are actively involved in their communities by providing resources and opportunities to engage in service oriented community activities. With the Alternative Spring Break program provided by them, they allow students to use their time during Spring Break to serve others and work towards change within communities.
For students who register for the Alternative Spring Break program, transportation, food and lodging are included in the cost of each trip. Though students are expected to cover a portion of the costs, scholarships are available through the Center for Civic Engagement for those who require financial assistance.
“Personally, I find it to be an excellent opportunity for students to experience.” said Lena Taylor, a second-year Lone Star College-Kingwood student, when speaking about her thoughts on Alternative Spring Break. “I am grateful that Lone Star College offers all of these opportunities to students to participate in.”
Through this program, students get the opportunity to learn first-hand the realities of their locations, the history of the places that their trip took place, visit the places where epochal development occurred and meet people who experienced the history.
“Being in college I always wanted to get involved in clubs, programs (and) etc,” said Lena Taylor when speaking about what her inspiration was for joining this program. “Being in this program, I had the opportunity to truly see a variety of social issues and I got to be a part of service-oriented projects with community-based organizations. This helped me learn that there are people out there who are not as fortunate and to always be grateful for what I have and to always be willing to reach out to others in need.”
Through Alternative Spring Break, students have traveled to places such as Mississippi, Nicaragua, El Paso, New Mexico and others. Although students have spoken about learning about these locations in their history courses and stories from the media, they realized that there is much to be learned about these places. During their journeys, these students were able to speak with the people who live at their trip’s location and heard stories that enabled them to engage personally with the people’s perspectives.
“I was a student who registered for the Medical Mission Trip to Nicaragua trip.” said Brian Hardy, a second-year student from LSC-Kingwood. “I never knew much about Nicaragua other than it is a poor country and that there is poverty there. When I went on this trip, I was able to explore areas of this country and I saw first-hand extreme poverty and medical needs in third-world countries. I got to see students like me working side-by-side with doctors, nurses, an optometrist and a dentist as well as the passion for serving others that Nicaraguans have. In spite of their situation, their people have such a positive view on life and that gave me (the) courage to always be grateful and to always be willing to be there for others who need it.”
Students also spoke about how they learned about the history and cultures of the places they traveled to.
“I participated in the trip named Civil Rights and the Blues that took place in Mississippi,” said Rosalina Vonderhaar, a second-year student from LSC-Kingwood. “I used to always hear stereotypes about Mississippians in how they are commonly farmers and that country music is extremely popular there. On the trip, I got to learn about their history, the music, food and even spoke with people who were involved in historical moments there and realized that there was so much I did not know about this state and America overall.”
In past trips, students have visited with non-profit organizations that aim to aid residents gain their U.S. Citizenship and help empower them. They have visited churches that were built over a century ago and learned about how churches became targets of maintaining residential segregation racial patterns. There was even a trip that featured a partnership with the Border Servant Corp in Las Cruces, New Mexico where the students and professors slept at Peace Lutheran Church. The experience engaged students to learn more about communal living and included them sleeping in sleeping bags.
“Looking back on the trip I embarked on,” said Hardy. “I feel that I have grown in character and have learned much more about the world that I never knew before. My endurance in this trip provided a lasting learning experience that I know that I will never forget and I feel that I have developed a better understanding that has grown to be a part of my character and morality.”
Students could also see how the goals of their trips educated them beyond what they are taught in classrooms.
“Being in this immersive trip I can really see what the goal of it all truly is,” said Vonderhaar. “I can see that the purpose of this trip was to educate students immersively to cultivate student’s value’s systems while expanding their knowledge of cultures and enhancing their skills to work amongst differences toward common goals. This journey represents self-sacrifice designed to not just educate students beyond what we learn in our classrooms, but to take them to be engaged physically that required their immersion with people and an area that is culturally different from our own.”